Notes on Notes: Citrus

Notes on Notes: Citrus

Welcome to the June installment of Notes on Notes, a collaboration with Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies! Each month, we choose a fragrance note and each of us writes a blog post about it based on our personal experiences. This month, the note is citrus (encompassing any and all citrus notes), since it suits the summer months so well.

Most of the familiar citruses are “hesperidic” fruits. According to Wikipedia, “Carl Linnaeus gave the name Hesperideæ to an order containing the genus Citrus, in allusion to the golden apples of the Hesperides.” These include oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, and (importantly for fragrance) bergamots. All offer essential oils from their bitter rinds which have been used often in the creation of fragrances, with synthetic versions available as substitutes.

In fragrance, the perfumer I most associate with brilliant use of citrus notes is Jean-Claude Ellena. He likes their bitterness; and a citrus has often been the featured opener for many of his fragrances, including the Jardin series he launched at Hermès. I’ve written before about my love for Un Jardin Sur Le Nil, which opens with a marvelous grapefruit accord. Miller Harris’ discontinued Tangerine Vert is another terrific citrus scent; in that post, I also covered another sadly discontinued fragrance, from Maison Martin Margiela, Replica Filter Glow. It was a dry oil fragrance meant to be directly layered with a complementary scent and said to prolong it. You could also wear it on its own, with its notes of neroli, grapefruit blossom, bergamot, and rose absolute. I think it would enhance any citrus-forward fragrance.

Green tangerine fruits on wood
Green tangerines; image from

Much as I love the other citrus notes, in perfume my favorite may be bergamot. I was raised on Earl Grey tea, whose distinctive aroma and flavor come from the infusion of bergamot essential oil into the tea, so I associate happy memories of teatime with that scent. (Earl Grey tea brings back childhood memories so strongly that I always drink it with milk and sugar, unlike most of the other teas and coffees I enjoy). I love the fresh zing it brings to a fragrance’s opening, and its green astringency, which partners so well with the green scents I love, like Chanel’s Cristalle and No. 19. Bergamot seems to enhance galbanum, and vice versa.

My two newest citrus-based fragrances were both bought on recent vacation trips (perfume tourism strikes again!): Carthusia’s A’mmare, which I bought in Milan last summer, and Lili Bermuda’s Bermudiana, purchased just last month in Bermuda. Both open with a detectable burst of bergamot, combined with aromatic herbs. A’mmare pairs it with rosemary (and salt); Bermudiana with basil and aldehydes. The fragrances are separated by six decades — Bermudiana was launched in 1962, and A’mmare in 2021.


Bermudiana has a strong heart note of galbanum, one of my favorites. A’mmare‘s heart notes are an aquatic accord and mint. Both fragrances pair so well with bergamot; both are very summery without being too beachy (i.e., they don’t smell to me like sunscreen). I love their combination of bergamot with different green herbs. They feel like summer colognes but last much longer.

Do you have any favorite citrus notes? Are there any you really dislike? I actually can’t think of any I dislike …

Check out Portia’s Notes on Notes on Australian Perfume Junkies!

Notes on Notes logo
Notes on Notes; image by Portia Turbo.
Counterpoint: Un Bois Vanille

Counterpoint: Un Bois Vanille

Happy Monday! Today is May 15, and this is another “Counterpoint” post from me and Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies.

This month’s Counterpoint fragrance is Un Bois Vanille, from Serge Lutens. Launched in 2003, the perfumer who created it is Christopher Sheldrake. It is one of several offspring of Feminité du Bois, created in 1992 for Shisheido by the team of Serge Lutens, Christopher Sheldrake, and Pierre Bourdon. It seems that after FdB, M. Sheldrake explored the innovative woody accords in different directions, including Un Bois Vanille, Bois de Violette, Bois et Musc, Bois et Fruits, Bois Oriental,  and Un Bois Sépia.

Bottle of Serge Lutens' Un Bois Vanille
Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens; image from Portia.

Un Bois Vanille is a complex scent that plays off the botanical origins of vanilla, most familiar to us as the sweet ingredient in so many baked goods. Vanilla extract comes from beans that grow in pods on vining orchids in tropical rain forests. The vines climb up trees in their natural habitats; in cultivation, they are often grown on wooden supports. Wood, then, is a suitable companion to vanilla, and they are well-partnered in Un Bois Vanille. The green aspect of vanilla vines is evoked by an anise accord; other notes include coconut milk, beeswax, sandalwood, tonka, almond, benzoin, guiac, and musk.

  1. How did you first encounter Un Bois Vanille, and what was your first impression?

Portia: I’m not sure exactly but it could have been while sniffing with friends in what was our most glamorous Sydney department store David Jones. It also might have been through an early Serge Lutens sampler from Posh Peasant. Maybe around 2010? Yeah, I came to you all quite late. It was a very solo perfume journey for me till finding the scent blogosphere. I liked it early on but it didn’t compete with some of the more outrageous scents in the line. At the time I was all about pushing boundaries, being daring, shocking and pushing every fragrant envelope to its farthest shore. Since those heady days I’ve come to love many of those outrageous perfumes but the ones i tend to wear are much more comfortable.

Old Herbaceous: I came into possession of Un Bois Vanille a couple of years ago, when I found a tester online at a very reasonable price. Since I was, and am still, in the process of educating my nose, I knew I wanted to try some of Serge Lutens’ fragrances, and I had read in many places that Un Bois Vanille was one of his most approachable fragrances, easier to appreciate and enjoy than some of his more innovative scents. So I bought the tester, and it was the start of a small Lutens cluster in my collection. My first impression was that it is a sophisticated vanilla while remaining sweet, but it is never sugary. The beeswax and coconut milk give it a smoothness that I find quite soothing, and I enjoy the anise accord.

2. How would you describe the development of Un Bois Vanille?

Old Herbaceous: To my nose, the vanilla is obvious right away, with a milky undertone. It remains dominant throughout, with anise emerging, followed by phases that smell woody (sandalwood, tonka, almond), then resinous and warm (guiac, benzoin, musk).

PortiaUn Bois Vanille doesn’t have an enormous range through its development when I wear it. It opens hot vanilla caramel bakery, fresh from the oven. As it moves through the heart the nuttiness dries it out but we don’t lose that warmth. Even in dry down when the woods have taken over vanilla heavy amber reigns supreme.

3. Do you or will you wear Un Bois Vanille regularly? For what occasions or seasons?

Portia: Honestly, I’m lucky if Un Bois Vanille gets a wear annually. Vanilla, woods and amber make up a large percentage of my perfume wardrobe. There are a few favourites that are in easy reach, on the grab tray or on my mind. Since my Serge Lutens bottles grab tray got repurposed in the revamp of the perfume/dressing/office room and they are all in a box their wear has reduced a lot. In the 10 years I’ve owned this bottle it has probably only had 10 wears. Hopefully us writing about Un Bois Vanille at the start of the cooler months here in Sydney will rejog my memory and I’ll give it a few more outings. Wearing it the last couple of days, once for bed and today for work, I’ve really enjoyed it. Though it’s not important a couple of people have asked what it is I’m wearing and if it’s still available. So that’s nice too.

Old Herbaceous: I don’t wear it regularly, though I like it whenever I do. Since I’m on the other side of the planet from Portia, we are entering our summer months, and the vanilla fragrance I like for summer is Vanira Moorea by Berdoues. I will try to remember to pull out Un Bois Vanille this fall, though, because I agree with Portia that it is very suitable for autumn and winter.

4. Who should/could wear Un Bois Vanille?

Old Herbaceous: Un Bois Vanille is definitely a unisex scent. Apparently, the genesis of its forebear Feminité du Bois was to show that a woody fragrance, traditionally associated with masculine fragrances, could be made more feminine. Almost every time I wear any vanilla-centric fragrance, I get more compliments than with almost any other scent, usually from men. So it clearly works well as a feminine scent! Conversely, I would find this very appealing on a man, and I need to find out what it smells like on my husband!

Portia: When I spritz Un Bois Vanille it always feels like a rich dessert or cocktail. A fountain of molten vanilla, caramel, coconut and nutty biscuit. Lavish, delicious and playful. It works from slouching in front of the TV to elegant awards nights. While cool weather is my preferred wear time, I can also imagine it working for spring weekends and sensual tropical evenings. Smelling good enough to eat, but in a sophisticated way, is always a winner. Unisex but leaning towards what society expects women to smell like. I say go for the subversive guys, wear against the grain. I can only imagine how amazing this would smell on some beefy hunk of a tradesman as he turns up to fix your power box.

If huge stories float your boat, then Un Bois Vanille might be a little boring for you. On the other hand, if you love to smell good. You like a hefty, rich, not too confectionary oriented gourmand that lasts all day and into the night then you might just have found a new grand love.

Please add your answers to one or more of the questions above, in the comments!

Counterpoint: Jean Patou’s Joy

Counterpoint: Jean Patou’s Joy

Welcome to a monthly collaboration new for 2023! Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and I had so much fun doing “Scent Semantics” with some other fragrance bloggers in 2022 that we decided to launch TWO regular features as a new collaboration this year. The first, which we plan to post on the first Monday of each month, is “Notes on Notes“, in which we choose one note and write about it however the spirit moves us; last month’s Note was on galbanum. This second feature is “Counterpoint“, in which we ask ourselves the same handful of questions about a single fragrance and post our separate thoughts on it, on the third Monday of each month. We’re still experimenting with format, so comments on that are welcome too!

This month’s Counterpoint fragrance is Jean Patou’s Joy (we shall ignore the imposter Dior launched in 2018 after acquiring the name and the brand). Jean Patou was one of the great designers and couturiers of pre World War 2 Europe, with his own couture house. Joy was launched in 1930 at the outset of the Great Depression, apparently so that M. Patou’s haute couture clients could still enjoy something created by him even if they couldn’t buy his dresses any more. The true creator, of course, was the perfumer; in this case, Henri Alméras.

Joy was famously promoted as the “costliest perfume in the world”, which was probably a marketing ploy but also reflected the high quality and cost of its ingredients, including absolutes made from jasmine and roses from Grasse. It was also meant to compete with Chanel No.5 as a luxury perfume. They share some qualities and notes, but each is distinct from the other, and instantly recognizable to many.

The fragrance "Joy" by Jean Patou
Jean Patou’s Joy; image from Portia at Australian Perfume Junkies

1. How did you first encounter Joy, and what was your first impression?

Old Herbaceous: I first tried Joy after I had gone down the rabbit-hole of this fragrance hobby. I knew it was one of the 20th century’s most legendary fragrances and that my perfume education would be incomplete if I didn’t try it. I found a tester of the eau de toilette at a very reasonable price, so I took the plunge and bought it blind.

My first impression was kind of “meh.” It was okay but I didn’t like it as much as the Chanels I already had, for example, or some of the more exciting new fragrances I was trying. It felt a bit old-fashioned, more than the Chanels did, and I couldn’t recognize its separate notes. As my nose became more educated, though, and I was trying more different kinds of fragrances, I came to like Joy better.

Portia: Honestly I have no memory of first smelling Joy by Patou. It seemed to be around in my childhood. It was definitely work by my Mum at some point and by various Aunts and friends Mums. There is no one specific image or memory I can conjure of my early encounters though. 

When I started buying vintages I was so unaware of exactly how it should smell I sent a couple of samples around the world for confirmation and bought samples from Posh Peasant for comparison. So I’m taking my first vintage splash bottle as if it was the first time I smelled it. The only memory I have of that was being overwhelmed by this extraordinary scent. Eye-rollingly gorgeous stuff, I think I bought about a dozen bottles so I’d never be without it again, mainly vintage parfums and a couple of those 45ml EdT or EdP.

2. How would you describe the development of Joy?

Portia: Today I’m wearing both the vintage EdP and vintage parfum. I’m not sure exactly the years but the picture might give you an idea.

Opening is sharp white flowers, aldehydes and a swirl of ylang. It’s rich, plush and sumptuous. I know Joy is supposed to be rose and white floweer but the roses take a far back seat on the bus for ages before they start to become a serious contender. Even when they do make their play it’s only as a backup not the main event.

What I do smell as we hit the heart is fruit. Not that modern super sweet candy-ised fruit but that vintage tinned fruit salad. Yeah, it’s sweet but more robust, less headache inducing.

There is also a lovely, stemmy green note that could be hyacinth and it borders on torn twig. It’s verdant but also bitter and gives a lovely counterpoint to the bouquet and fruit.

Hiding deep below is also a little growly tiger and breathy, sweet jasmine.

As the fragrance heads towards dry down, the woods and animalics become more pronounced. Not dirty or ass-ish but smoothly skin-like, me but so much better.

Old Herbaceous: The notes listed for the original Joy are: tuberose, rose, ylang-ylang, aldehydes, pear, and green notes. The heart notes include jasmine and iris root. The base has notes of musk, sandalwood, and, in the vintage, civet. The version I have is the eau de toilette and it dates to 2016. Fragrantica lists this version’s notes as: Top notes — Bulgarian Rose, Ylang-Ylang and Tuberose; middle notes — Jasmine and May Rose; base notes — Musk and Sandalwood.

I think there are still some aldehydes in the opening, even if no longer listed, to give it some lift. There’s a pleasant soapiness to Joy that I associate with aldehydes; and I think they are the cause of so many people feeling that Joy is old-fashioned. I smell the ylang-ylang more than I do the other floral top notes, and then the jasmine arrives. It isn’t overpowering but it is very evident, much more so than the rose notes. I don’t smell any iris, root or bloom, at all, so that may not have become part of the modern EDT. It’s not quite as abstract a flower as Chanel No.5, but it is in that same vein. Even in EDT format, Joy has good longevity and sillage. A little goes a long way, given how dominant jasmine is. The final stage of this modern Joy on my skin is all soft sandalwood and white musk, like expensive soap.

Jean Patou’s Joy eau de toilette

3. Do you or will you wear Joy regularly? For what occasions or seasons?

Old Herbaceous: I don’t think I’ll wear Joy regularly, but that’s mostly because I now have such a large collection of fragrances that there are only a few I would say I “wear regularly.” Joy definitely gets more love from me than it used to, and it’s in a convenient location, so I do reach for it occasionally. It’s great for church or the office, because if you don’t overspray, it’s quite subtle and ladylike. It’s one of those fragrances that doesn’t jump out at anyone, it just smells very nice. By the same token, if you want your fragrance to make more of an impression, Joy may not be the one to choose that day (or night), unless the parfum has more impact (I haven’t tried that version).

Portia: Joy is so fabulous but rarely gets the spritz, splash ot swipe here. Every so often I get out the Patou box and grab Joy. I’ll wear it and put it back. Then I won’t think of it for months. That doesn’t lessen my love for it but it seems to fit only rarely. 

I’m hoping that enjoying wearing it so much today and yesterday that it might inspire me to wear it more often.

4. Who should/could wear Joy?

Portia: Joy needs a certain amount of preparation if you’re not a regular wearer. It’s big, bold and makes a statement. It’s tenacity is also legendary, so you have to be ready to smell of this iconic beauty for at least half a day. Anyone who chooses Joy is choosing to smell of a fragrance that will not be easily available for us to buy when the bottle runs out. So they are wearing something precious and on it’s way to extinction. That alone tells you something of the wearer. Either they are so wealthy that they can stockpile or such a hedonist that wearing it to the dregs and enjoying every second is better than having it forever. No, I check myself. There are other reasons. Wearing it as a memory scent, to mark special occasions, as a lure or any number of wonderful reasons. 

Really though, anyone who wants to smell spectacular and relive the joy of wearing Joy by Patou before it’s gone forever.

Old Herbaceous: As always, I say anyone who wants to can wear Joy or any other fragrance! Joy does give off a certain demure, ladylike air, at least in EDT form, but that could be deployed to great effect if the wearer isn’t, in fact, demure, ladylike, or even a lady. For myself, I prefer some of the reissued “Collection Heritage” fragrances created by Thomas Fontaine when he was Jean Patou’s head perfumer, especially Chaldée and L’Heure Attendue.

If you want to experience this legendary fragrance, I recommend getting some soon. Dior’s Joy is a pallid successor at best, but all the Jean Patou fragrances are now out of production, since LVMH bought the brand (to the howls of the faithful) and changed its name to just “Patou”. The fragrances are still widely available online and I’m told that Joy was so popular among ladies of my mother’s generation and even beyond that it is often found at estate sales. In fact, when a FiFi award was given in 2000 to the “perfume of the century”, it was given to Joy and NOT to its competitor No.5. So now really is the time to get yourself this small exemplar of 20th century fashion and creativity. I’ll be keeping my eye out for vintage parfum, since that’s the version that has gotten the most rave reviews (including from Luca Turin, who gave it his rare five-star rating) and that Portia finds so alluring.

Have you experienced Joy? What did you think? Has your opinion changed over time, as mine did?

Counter/Point, a monthly blog collaboration
Counterpoint: Chanel No. 5

Counterpoint: Chanel No. 5

Welcome to a new feature that I hope will appear monthly! Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and I had so much fun doing “Scent Semantics” with some other fragrance bloggers in 2022 that we decided to launch TWO regular features as a new collaboration in 2023. The first, which we plan to post on the first Monday of each month, is “Notes on Notes“, in which we choose one note and write about it however the spirit moves us; our first Note was oakmoss. This second feature is “Counterpoint“, in which we ask ourselves the same handful of questions about a single fragrance and post our separate thoughts on it, on the third Monday of each month. We’re still experimenting with format, so comments on that are welcome too! This month’s Counterpoint fragrance is Chanel No. 5.

Continue reading
Counterpoint: Mitsouko

Counterpoint: Mitsouko

Welcome to a new feature that I hope will appear monthly! Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and I had so much fun doing “Scent Semantics” with some other fragrance bloggers in 2022 that we decided to launch TWO regular features as a new collaboration in 2023. The first, which we plan to post on the first Monday of each month, is “Notes on Notes“, in which we choose one note and write about it however the spirit moves us; our first Note was oakmoss. This second feature is “Counterpoint”, in which we ask ourselves the same handful of questions about a single fragrance and post our separate thoughts on it. We’re still experimenting with format, so comments on that are welcome too!

Counterpoint, a monthly blog collaboration

This month, our first Counterpoint is Mitsouko.

Continue reading
Perfume Chat Room, October 29

Perfume Chat Room, October 29

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, October 29, and I have exciting news to share! Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies, now posting on A Bottled Rose, has organized a group of us bloggers to engage in monthly “Scent Semantics”, when we will post on the same day (first Monday of each month) a fragrance-related reflection on a single word, linking it to a particular scent. We’ll take turns choosing the “word of the month.” You’ll have to check back on Monday to find out which word is first! And I hope you’ll join in this word game in the comments!

Portia provided this wonderful definition, by way of explaining the name of the game:

Scent Semantics, from “Semantics (Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikós, “significant”)[a][1] is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, including philosophy, linguistics and computer science.”

I love this name because in college, I majored in Classical Languages and Literature, with an emphasis on Ancient Greek. My official WordPress account name and email is The Wise Kangaroo, which is a mnemonic used by English speakers to remember a particular Greek metrical pattern from Ancient Greek lyric poetry and drama, about which I wrote my thesis.

The participating blogs are:

Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum Girl, The Alembicated Genie, Eau La La, Undina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog next week!

In other excitement this week, Halloween is coming up on Sunday and here in the USA, public health officials have given a green light to the traditional trick-or-treating. As they noted, it is by definition an outdoor activity that usually includes masks, lol. So now I have to stock up on candy, because our neighborhood of old houses placed close together and linked by sidewalks is a very popular destination for families with treat-seeking children. Not only do we get kids from the neighborhood itself, other families drive here, park, and walk around with their kids. All are welcome! Even the long-leggedy beasties.

Halloween costumed dogs
Dogs as long-leggedy beasties

Do you have any Halloween plans? Any favorite scents to wear on Halloween? I think I may have to pull out some of my spookier samples from Solstice Scents.

Colorful jack o' lanterns with face masks
Pumpkins with face masks
Perfume Chat Room

Perfume Chat Room

Fragrance friends: the sudden farewell of Australian Perfume Junkies has left a number of perfumistas wondering where they will find a place online to “hang out” with other fragheads. Portia and Val the Cookie Queen will be posting sometimes on A Bottled Rose (yay!), but Portia won’t be hosting weekly SOTD threads or Saturday Questions as on APJ. So I am humbly offering here a weekly “Perfume Chat Room”, where any readers so inclined can list their scents of the day(s), ask each other questions, give a “Weekend Update”, and generally take the conversations in whatever direction they want.

Retro cocktail party image

As at APJ, taking sides means never taking offense, always keeping things respectful and light, sharing information and opinions, and remembering that in fragrance, as in life, your mileage may vary. In other words, agreeing to disagree. YMMV. Welcome!

Vintage Avon fragrance ad, 1960s

Avon calling! Image from


Godspeed, APJ

via Welcome Back APJ

It seems so recent that we were rejoicing in the return of a beloved blog and fragrance lovers’ community, Australian Perfume Junkies, after the site was hacked. Now, sadly, its founder Portia has decided to end the blog at the end of this month. It has clearly taken a LOT of time to manage, although along the way Portia has shared many fun outings that readers vicariously enjoyed, and even a wedding to longtime partner Jin. I especially loved the Saturday Questions, and everyone’s updates on “thunking”, and earning “enabler pins”!

APJ was one of the first online perfumista communities I found when I went down this rabbit hole; thanks to Portia and friends, it was always a  kind and welcoming one. I will miss APJ, but I hope to keep seeing some of its regulars online, here and on other blogs I enjoy like Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, and Undina’s Looking Glass (I read and enjoy several others too, but these are the ones where I’ve found the most conversations with repeat commenters).

Thank you, Portia, for hosting those conversations and sharing your encounters in life and fragrance. Thanks for pleasant memories. I wish you and Jin the very best, and good health and happiness! I hope you might occasionally post an update on your doings and still drop by other blogs once in a while. Stop by here any time! Au revoir.

Welcome Back APJ

Welcome Back APJ

They’re ba-a-a-a-ck! Australian Perfume Junkies has been able to rebuild a new WordPress site — so happy to see them active again! Please follow them again, they lost all followers and subscribers and have to start over.

Australian Perfume Junkies




Hi there APJ lovers,

We are back from the dead. Welcome to the New APJ!

Welcome Back APJ

We are finally back in business. Thank you to the people who have worked and helped and recreated this wonderful meeting place for fumies, fragrance lovers and perfumistas from around the world. Belinda,  Alex and Undina (from Undina’s Looking Glass) all gave time, insight, knowledge and muscle to get us back. Thank you.

It will take some time to get back into our groove and we hope you will bear with us as we implement some change.

Please tell everyone you know that APJ is up again because we lost all our Followers and Subscribers in the hack & changeover. We are really starting again from scratch.

So yes, we will be back to the perfumed chatter ASAP.

We have missed you all.
Portia and the APJ Team

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